Int’l Migration Body: Over 118,000 Reached Europe Via Mediterranean This Year

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Italian coast guard personnel taking part in a rescue operation of a boat with migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Photo: AFP

The International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday that the number of refugees and migrants who arrived in Europe by sea this year has topped 118,000, while over 2,400 are dead or missing.

As of August 14, the IOM said 118,227 people had been recorded arriving by sea, mostly in Italy where 97,263 people touched down. A smaller number – 12,191 – reached Greece, while 8,385 made landfall in Spain.

According to the IOM’s Missing Migrant Project, which records deaths along migratory routes worldwide, the number of Mediterranean deaths fell to 130 people last month, the lowest number this year. So far in August, 19 people are believed to have died making the crossing.

However, as of August 13, the fatality rate was 2.0 percent, up from 1.4 percent last year.

Most migrants and refugees arriving in Italy, the country for which there is the most current data, are from Nigeria, with 15,317 people. Fewer but still sizable numbers of people have come from Eritrea, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Senegal, Mali and Sudan.

The Mediterranean Sea is the main migratory route for millions of people hoping to reach Europe from the Middle East and Africa. Many are coming to escape poverty, while others are fleeing years of war and conflict.

On August 11, the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders) and two other NGOs said they suspended search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean due to increased restrictions from the Libyan coast guard, which is working with Italy to deter such boat journeys.

“If humanitarian ships are pushed out of the Mediterranean, there will be fewer ships in the area to rescue people from drowning. Those who will not drown will be intercepted and brought back to Libya, which we know is a place of lawlessness, arbitrary detention, and extreme violence,” MSF’s operational manager Annemarie Loof said in a press release.

The 2015 “European refugee crisis,” which saw an over a million people arriving in the EU from Syria, Iraq and other countries, pushed the bloc to take tougher measures to deter human trafficking and smuggling and tighten the frontier borders.

Last year a record number of people died making the Mediterranean crossing. By October, the UN Refugee Agency said 3,740 died, just short of the 3,771 who died in all of 2015.